Walrus and The Hunter

This is about a talking walrus and a talking human talking about some things over a glass of tea.

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Objectively Good Doesn’t Exist

Objectively Good Doesn’t Exist.

When someone says a piece of art is objectively good, they are holding it up to an understood standard. For example, if something is well drawn, by a conventional definition, they say that’s an objectively good picture. Effectively most people can appreciate it and use logic to explain why it’s good. That does not mean it’s objectively good. The term “objectively good” is wholly inappropriate in all but maybe the most esoteric conversations. This term has no usefulness and I will put it to rest.

We have real truth and observable truth. We cannot understand real truth. We did not evolve to understand reality, wasn’t necessary to survive and make more of us. There are rules of the universe we have not discovered yet, and some other rules we may not be able to understand. We do have the technology to observe things we cannot normally perceive, but we may have yet to see things outside of our detection and we might never have the means to do so. This real truth, we cannot perceive.

On the other hand, speaking of observable truth, we can try to understand the universe’s mechanisms as best as we can. Speaking of this, things objectively exist. My desk is objectively existing. This is functionally true and there is no reason to believe this is not true except that I cannot speak for real truth. I am not smart enough to know what real truth is.

Now, let’s talk about good.

Is the house you live in good? Is it good that you live in your house? That is all an opinion. You can call it functionally good. But there is no universal metric to measure how much something is good or bad. It’s all in your head. Being alive may not be good, we may be causing more problems than we are solving. But we have a functional morality because from our subjective experience, being alive is a good thing. Our functional morality does not exist outside of our minds. This is not an observable fact of the universe and no universal truth.

We have a limited view of the known universe and perception of good only exists within our heads. Knowing this, how can we even say that there is objectively good art? Where do we see objectively good? Does the universe have an opinion of art? I think when people say ‘Objectively Good’ what they really mean is consensus good. That’s when most people like it and they call it good.

Now here’s the controversial part.

Most people appreciate consensus good art. But appreciation doesn’t matter. Appreciation is not objectively good. Or even functionally good. Appreciation doesn’t mean you like it. To an individual person, it may have no value. Imagine a beautifully realistic statue of Fidel Castro made of cow fertilizer. The artist is masterful at this craft. Those statues are so beautifully realistic they bring a tear to your eye. But no one wants that. You can Appreciate the fact that the artist is a master at his/her craft but that doesn’t mean you like it. You really don’t want that around the house. Can this really be good if nobody likes it?

If people call something good because it’s what the consensus says, but they don’t like it, then the consensus loses meaning. It’s possible to not enjoy it, but appreciate the technique used to create it. We understand how difficult it is to pull off the technique, but we don’t have to like it for that.

Don’t ever say, “I like it, but I don’t think it’s good,” that reduces the value of your opinion. The consensus doesn’t matter more than your opinion. Your opinion is more important. The consensus is not created by God or is an objective standard of the universe. The consensus comes from individuals saying they like some piece of art. If you lose your opinions in favor of the consensus, the consensus loses meaning.

Let’s talks about surrealism.

Before in history, there have been ideas of what is objectively good, and those ideas are challenged because there is different kinds of art that people like. Highly realistic painting was considered the standard, that’s what a good painting was. The techniques used to create these paintings are considered a means to create good art. But someone came along and started making paintings that were surreal and people thought that was good. Those beautiful paintings were considered objectively bad because they didn’t adhere to the established standard. They didn’t use the techniques that were supposed to be used to create good art. But so many people liked those paintings that they became good. We all agreed it was good and those paintings became good. What was considered good had changed.

The consensus is always changing. The consensus is always evolving, it’s everyone’s opinions. If something new comes along and doesn’t use the same techniques for what is considered good, and I like it, then the consensus of what is good has changed. Because I just changed it. This new thing might be considered bad but it is no longer universally bad. Never say, “I like it but it’s objectively bad.”

You are shaped by your experiences. And you come to each piece of art with that baggage. You may have learned about conventionally good art and appreciate that convention. Your opinions may be close to consensus, but that doesn’t make them objective fact. You just agree with a lot of people.

There is no point to objectively good or objectively bad, the universe doesn’t care. The universe has no opinion of art. We have opinions and we decide if something is good. Good does not exist outside of people, it is not an objective concept. The consensus doesn’t matter, appreciation isn’t good. What’s good?

My drawing is objectively good because a reputable artist called me an artist. 

Thanks to Digibro for the inspiration to articulate this post.

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